HOME ~ College Football History
Details are sketchy as to when Michigan State athletic teams officially
began using the school colors green and white. But records of the
Athletic Association of the then Michigan Agricultural College show that
on April 11, 1899, the organization took steps toward adoption of a
green monogram, "to be worn only by athletes who subsequently
in intercollegiate events."
It is generally thought the colors came into wide use with the arrival
in 1903 of Chester L. Brewer as the school's first full-time director of
athletics. Brewer also coached the Spartan football, basketball,
baseball and track teams, the only varsity units in existence at the
In 1926, Michigan State's first southern baseball training tour provided
the setting for the birth of the "Spartan" nickname.
It all came about when a Lansing sportswriter imposed the silent
treatment on a contest-winning nickname and substituted his own choice,
the name that has lasted through the years.
In 1925, Michigan State College replaced the name Michigan Agricultural
College. The college sponsored a contest to select a nickname to replace
"Aggies" and picked "The Michigan Staters."
George S. Alderton, then sports editor of the Lansing State Journal,
decided the name was too cumbersome for newspaper writing and vowed to
find a better one.
Alderton contacted Jim Hasselman of Information Services to see if
entries still remained from the contest. When informed that they still
existed, Alderton ran across the entry name of "Spartans" and then
decided that was the choice. Unfortunately, Alderton forgot to write
down who submitted that particular entry, so that part of the story
remains a mystery.
Rewriting game accounts supplied by Perry Fremont, a catcher on the
squad, Alderton first used the name sparingly and then ventured into the
headlines with it. (Incidentally, after two days of spelling the name
incorrectly with an "o", Mr. Alderton changed it to Spartan on a tip
from a close friend.) Dale Stafford, a sports writer for the Lansing
Capitol News, a rival of the State Journal, picked up the name for his
paper after a couple of days. Alderton called Stafford and suggested
that he might want to join the Spartan parade and he did. As Mr.
Alderton explains: "No student, alumnus or college official had called
up the editor to complain about our audacity in giving the old school a
new name, so we ventured into headlines with it. Happily for the
experiment, the name took. It began appearing in other newspapers and
when the student publication used it, that clinched it."
Sparty has gained great national visibility lately, a tribute to its
cool design as well as to the efforts behind the MSUAA's mascot program.
He's our own jolly green giant. Lovable, huggable, and for Spartans of
every age, ever so photo-poseable.
In the fall of 1995, MSU's beloved Sparty leaped into national celebrity
in the same dramatic fashion that gymnast Kerri Strug vaulted into
Olympian history at the Atlanta games. It happened when ESPN showed
Sparty holding Strug--"Beauty and the Beast" style--in its national
advertising campaign for "SportsCenter."
As "beasts" go, however, Sparty is way-cool. He's massive, but
cartoon-cute. The seven-foot costume weighs in at 30 pounds, allowing
enough flexibility for playful gestures and animation. To Spartan fans,
his national popularity came as no surprise.
MSU Fight Song
On the banks of the Red Cedar
Is a school that's known to all;
Its specialty is winning,
And those Spartans play good ball;
Spartan teams are never beaten,
All through the games they fight;
Fight for the only colors,
Green and White.
Go right thru' for MSU,
Watch the points keep growing.
Spartan teams are bound to win,
They're fighting with a vim.
RAH! RAH! RAH!
See their team is weakening,
We're going to win this game.
Fight! Fight! Rah! Team, Fight!
Victory for MSU.
MSU Shadows (Alma mater)
MSU, we love thy shadows
When twilight silence falls,
Flushing deep and softly paling
O'er ivy covered halls;
Beneath the pines we'll gather
To give our faith so true,
Sing our love for Alma Mater
And thy praises, MSU.
When from these scenes we wander
And twilight shadows fade,
Our mem'ry still will linger
Where light and shadows played;
In the evening oft we'll gather
And pledge our faith anew,
Sing our love for Alma Mater
And thy praise, MSU.